You Gonna Eat All That?

A fork in one hand, a pen in the other.

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Location: Virginia, United States

(Biscuit Girl)

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Peach Upsidedown Cake

My in-laws were up from Chattanooga last week and while here, my mother-in-law went to the Mt. Vernon Farmer's Market and bought some fresh peaches and corn on the cob. We ate a few of the peaches but still had about a half dozen that were ripen fast. Hmmm...What could I do with them? A peach cobbler first came to mind. Last summer I made several with peaches purchased at the Farmer's Market. But that would be too easy, I wanted something different. Aha! How about a Peach Upsidedown Cake? Biscuit Boy loves pineapple upsidedown cake so odds were in my favor that he would also like one made with peaches.

I got out our trusty, well seasoned iron skillet and got busy. I prepped the pan with butter and brown sugar and began slicing up the peaches. That's when I ran into a little snag......I had more peaches than I could fit into the skillet. The solution.....pull out a baking dish and make a second cake. Darn, two cakes. I could think of worse problems to have.

So I whipped up both cakes, popped them in the oven while Biscuit Boy cooked dinner. He fixed some really delicious sesame crusted pork chops. He cut the corn from the cob, cooked it in skillet with some olive oil and garlic. He also fixed some sliced zucchini and mushrooms. Dinner was sooooooo good. And now I'm eyeing one of those cakes with lust in my eyes. I think I'll go have a slice.

Peach Upside Down Cake

¼ cup butter
½ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
5 fresh peaches - peeled, pitted and halved
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup white sugar
1 egg
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup milk

Melt ¼ cup butter or margarine in an 8 inch square pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar and nutmeg. Arrange peach halves, cut side down, in pan.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Spread batter over peaches.

Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 35 to 40 minutes, or until lightly browned on top. Remove cake from oven, and let stand in pan for 5 minutes; invert onto serving platter. Serve with whipped cream.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Vietnamese Stuffed Grape Leaves

We first tried these at Huong Que, also known as The Four Sisters Restaurant. It's located in Eden Center, a shopping center in Falls Church that is chock full of Vietnamese businesses. I discovered a recipe for them online and decided to give it a try. Who knew these would be so easy to make! And they freeze well, so you can make up a bunch of them, freeze 'em and have several quick meals ready to cook up. The recipe is located in Recipe*Zaar, a great collection of online recipes that have been added by regular folk like us. They also have a section where you can create your own online recipe box for recipes you find. This recipe for the grape leaves is here. To begin you need to get your grape leaves. They usually come in a jar with some brine so you'll want to rinse them. The recipe calls for the ingredients (garlic, ginger, scallion, and cilantro) to be minced or chopped. I found this to be a bit time consuming so I tried cutting these up into little chunks and tossing them into a food processor along with the rest of the ingredients (sans the ground beef). A quick pulse or two (or three) later, everything is minced. I add this to the ground beef in a large bowl and mix it together by hand. That's the only way to really be sure everything gets mixed well.
Then you take your rinsed grape leaves and begin to roll. Place a grape leaf, vein side up with the stem closest to you, on your cutting board. Take a thumb sized bit of the mixture and place it on the grape leaf just in front of the little piece of stem.

Next, fold over the part of the leaf closest to you over the beef. Don't be afraid to press the leaf tight against the beef. It will help it make a nice tight roll.
Next, fold over the sides of the leaf. Try to fold over enough to create a straight edge up the rest of the leaf, it'll make it easier to roll.

Then roll the leaf up going away from you. You can tuck in the sides along the way if you need to. It will help create a prettier looking roll. And don't forget to put a little pressure on it so things stay nice and tight.

The end result will be nice little packets of beefy goodness.
At this point you can grill them or freeze them. We usually grill some that night. After all, they're so good, who could resist.

The recipe includes a fish sauce based dipping sauce that adds a bit of zing. So be sure to mix up a batch of it as well.

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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Joe's Noodle House

We had a bunch of running around to do this morning which included heading up to Rockville. And since we were in the neighborhood, we just couldn't pass up an opportunity to eat at Joe's. Not that we need an excuse to drive 45 minutes each way just to go there. So after all our errands had been run, we stopped for lunch.

Before we even got there, we pretty much knew what we were going to order: Beef Noodle Soup Szechuan Style, Tender Bamboo Shoot Salad, Salty & Crispy Squid, Scallion pockets, and Pork with Leek Stem & Pressed Bean curd. One nice big bowl of soup to share and lots of little side dishes, ah, life is good.

First to arrive was the Bamboo shoot salad.

Nicely shredded strips of tender bamboo shoots tossed with a dressing made with sesame oil and served cold.

Next out of the kitchen was the pork & tofu dish as well as the squid.

We dove into the squid like a pack of hungry wolves. Partly because it's best eaten when it's fresh and hot from the kitchen and secondly because......well.......we were really hungry. No sooner had we started digging in when the scallion pockets and the soup arrived. Biscuit Boy grabbed a scallion pocket and set it on his plate. It was about this time that we realized we hadn't taken any pictures yet. So I quickly grabbed the camera out of my bag and Biscuit Boy snapped a few quick pics. Then it was right back to eating.

The squid is my absolute favorite thing at Joe's. I crave it when we haven't been in a while. Hot freshly fried pieces of squid in a very light coating. It's dusted with salt right after it's taken from the hot oil and tossed with some slivered garlic and pieces of hot peppers. It arrives at your table sitting on a little bed of lettuce. Today's was cook to perfection. Not a single tough piece to be had. It was the first dish to be emptied.

The pork with leeks and pressed bean curd is also served hot. It is tossed with a fermented black bean sauce and has a slightly sweet taste with is counterbalanced by a few slices of hot green peppers. Not a big fan of black beans, Biscuit Boy makes an exception for this dish.

The scallion pockets were something we had not had at Joe's before. It's only available for lunch on the weekends and most of our visits are usually at dinner time. So took advantage of the weekend lunch specials and tried these guys. While they were ok, neither one of us thought they were something we would have cravings for in the future. The thin flour pocket was filled with minced scallions, egg and (we think) minced cellophane noodle. There wasn't as much in the way of flavor as you would think. But they were ok.

The beef noodle soup was yummy.

Rich beefy broth with wide noodles and chunks of beef topped with two varieties of greens. We think one was spinach and the other some sort of pickled greens. Nicely seasoned with a little hot oil floating on top, it's a soothing soup even on a day as hot as this.

We washed it all down with a couple of Tsingtao's.

Some of the Pork dish and the bamboo shoot salad were packed in little take out boxes. We'll finish them with dinner tonight.

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Sunday, July 10, 2005

New Blog

As if one blog wasn't enough to keep up with, I've created a second one.

This new blog is called Global Gastronomy and it will eventually be a lengthy list of web sites with recipes and information about food and cuisines from around the world.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Monday, July 04, 2005

UPDATE: Russian Booze translated

What were my chances that I would have company stop by today and that the guest would be fluent in Russian? I would have guessed slim to none.

But as luck would have it, an old friend of Biscuit Boy's was passing through town with her boyfriend, Russ....who is from the Ukraine. Aha! He was able to tell us what was on the labels of the bottles of Russian libations. Woo Hoo!

Now if you read my earlier post, you know that we had gotten five small bottles of Russian vodka and assorted beverages from our neighbors. It was a thank you gift for watching their house while they were on a two week cruise in Russia.

Not knowing any Russian, we had to resort to the Internet to see what we could find. We figured out three and weren't too sure about the last two but had a good idea what they might be.

And weren't we pleased with our bad selves when he translated the bottles and told us that we were correct on our guesses! He said that the two with the berries were a 50/50 mix of fruit and vodka but that we'd probably do better to just get a bottle of Absolut and some cranberry juice. And as for the two other vodka's, well they were not the best but probably not the worst (but close). The one labeled as cognac was probably pretty retched according to Russ. In his Russian accent he said, "It probably von't poison you."

But he did think the bottles were quite nice.
And that's sorta what we thought. Even if the stuff wasn't all that good, at least we got some cool bottles......and some pretty nice friends and neighbors. Cheers.

Russian Booze

We have great neighbors. And nowadays there's something to be said about that. I remember as a kid that everyone knew their neighbors and we all looked out for each other. And god forbid you misbehaved at a friend's house. Before you could walk in the door, your mom already knew what you did.....and she was waiting for you.

But nowadays with people being more transient and busier than their parents, it seems that in many neighborhoods people don't get to know their neighbors.

We're lucky that we live in a place where we know almost all of our neighbors. And we look out for each other. Whenever Biscuit Boy and I travel, we have our next door neighbors get our paper and mail.....and vice-versa. And we've gotten into the habit of bringing back little thank you gifts for each other. Whenever we go to Florida, we bring back key lime candy for our neighbors. They, in turn, bring back some other nummy goody from their travels. It's works well.

Just last week, our neighbors came back from a 2 week cruise in Russia. They traveled from St. Petersburg to Moscow. It was a wonderful trip and they had a great time. But they didn't bring us back any Russian candy.......They brought back booze. They gave us a little five pack of Russian vodkas and other liqueurs.

But since our Russian is non-existent, we're still not exactly sure what is in those cute little bottles. Some investigating on the Internet helped us identify three of the five bottles, but the other two remain a mystery.
This is the package it all came in. Haven't got a clue what it says.

Cowberry beverage

The first bottle we identified was this one. It's some sort of brewed drink made with Cowberries. According to a few websites the cowberry is also known as the lingonberry, foxberry, mountain cranberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea). It is an uncultivated member of the cranberry family and is primarily used in northern Europe to make jams and preserves.

Cranberry Brewed Beverage

Bottle number 2 was another brewed beverage made with cranberries. According the the web site, the taste of cranberry really stands out against the background of grain alcohol. Yoweeeee! Sounds like potent stuff.


Third in the Russian beverage bonanza was a tasty little Vodka. The description says this vodka "expresses the joy of the meeting of old friends better than words." Well, of course it would, after you had enough of it you'd be meeting lots of your old friends, Earllllllll, the Porcelain God, the technocolor yawn, etc. etc. etc.


And that's about all we could identify. We think the fourth bottle is some type of cognac. We got as far as translating the large word on the label to mean cognac but that's as far as we got.

Special Vodka?

And last but not least. We know this one is a type of vodka but can't pinpoint what type it is. It does have a date on the label of 1898. So my guess is that it's some type of reserve or special vodka.

If you know what any of these last two items are, would you tell me?

I know we could just crack them open and taste them but Biscuit Boy wants to wait for his dad when he comes up to visit later this month. They're usually tequila connoisseurs but have decided to branch out with these five little bottles.

When asked if I had any problems with waiting, I said "Nyet."